Biden Extends Travel Restrictions, Adding South Africa

On Monday, January 25th President Joe Biden signed an order barring most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in South Africa from entering the United States, starting the following Saturday. This order also re-imposed an entry ban, which was supposed to expire on Tuesday, on nearly all non-U.S. travelers that have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders, according to the NY Times. This was in contradiction with President Trump’s actions the week prior, when he revoked those restrictions. In addition to the travel bans, President Biden issued an executive order which requires all international travellers to present a negative coronavirus test before entering the United States, as explained by the NY Times. This move was an extension of the requirement by the CDC that was issued by the Trump administration and was supposed to expire on Tuesday.

With new strains and variants of the virus being discovered in different parts of the world, representatives from the White House and CDC are urging people to stop traveling. As noted by Reuters, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a news briefing, “With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.” The State Department and CDC again urged U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel abroad, and postpone all non-essential travel.” According to the NY Times, Psaki also said that the Biden administration is intended to hold regular public health briefings three times a week, starting on Wednesday. She said Biden would be “briefed regularly on the pandemic,” and that she, “suspects this is far more regularly than the past president.”

The pandemic is still in full swing and worsening by the day. By adding these travel restrictions the White House is trying to limit the spread of the disease. The South African variant could become a huge setback to the progress that the United States has been working on with vaccinations since they aren’t as effective against this strain. For many all over the world, especially in the United States, the pandemic is taking a serious mental toll on them. Our lives, the way we lived them, were stripped away from us within a few days. With this becoming the new normal for the past year, it can be easy to start acting like life before, by travelling and going on vacation to escape this feeling. However, acting like this will only worsen the case. With non-essential travel, not only are you putting yourself at risk, you are putting those around you wherever you go. Although there is nothing the government can do to ensure that people don’t travel, without seeming tyrannical, they can help the case by requiring COVID tests to help stop the spread as drastically. And they can ban travel from non-citizens who don’t need to get home and are just visiting the United States.

In more detail, Biden’s travel ban isn’t an executive order, it is a presidential proclamation that usually governs the acts of individuals, while executive orders are directives to federal agencies, as explained in the NY Times. While the travel ban isn’t an executive order, the mandated negative test is, which has been enforced starting on January 26th. Health officials have been concerned recently with the current vaccine’s effectiveness against the South Africa COVID-19 variant. This variant also raises the prospect of re-infection. According to Reuters, the South African 501Y.V2 variant is 50 per cent more infectious than the regular strain and has been detected in at least 20 countries. Due to this, the Biden administration is extremely concerned with this variant coming to the United States.

This move came as officials in the new Biden administration are trying to get a grip around the fast-changing pandemic. Public health officials are racing to vaccinate the public and expand the supply of the vaccine, while more contagious variants are being discovered and spreading all over the world. Some people remain in their homes, ordering groceries online and solely connecting with others through video chat, while there are others that are traveling and acting like the pandemic is over. Humanity’s facing a single enemy right now and it’s not each other, it is the virus. We need to work together to defeat it and with these regulations and restrictions in place, along with vaccinations, we can hopefully see a light at the end of the tunnel